With so many important aspects of child development to consider in your childcare program, it’s easy to forget about an extremely important ingredient in a healthy person’s life: laughter. That’s right: laughing might seem like an activity that doesn’t warrant a line on your ever-growing to-do list, but this often-undervalued activity has a lot of power to improve the joy level of your child care center. And while such a nebulous characteristic may be difficult to quantify, it stands to positively impact your center — and everyone who enters it — in multiple ways.
Positive Effects of Laughter
No one has to tell us that the laughter of children is one of the most pleasant sounds there is. Can you even hear a child laugh without smiling, yourself? Laughter has the power to impact relationships and personal outlook in many ways. Not only does it help individuals to keep from taking themselves too seriously, but it also offers the benefit of:
- encouraging spontaneity
- considering the perspectives of others
- looking past the surface level
- grasping unconventional options
- getting along with others
- strengthening relationships
- learning to appreciate playfulness
- just plain enjoying life
Little-Known Insights from Laughter
The list above offers plenty of motivation for intentionally fostering a laugh-out-loud environment in your childcare center, right? But the benefits of laughter go beyond the social and personality development, too. Psychologists have discovered that what makes a person laugh can actually give you insight into their developmental level or thinking patterns. Often children find humorous those things that relate to developmental tasks they’re not yet able to master. That concept may explain why preschoolers tend to find bathroom-related humor so amusing, while elementary-aged kids may find it beneath them.
Early Development of Humor
While young infants may smile as a nervous system response to various stimuli, it takes them a few months to learn to laugh. Why? Laughter is actually a much more complex activity, requiring learning. As infants grasp the concept of object permanence and gain self-awareness, they open the door to laughter. One of the first games we play with infants often prompts the first giggles and belly laughs they’ll utter. Peekaboo has a short-lived yet endearing place in early child development — and for good reason. Before the 6-month marker, the fun of peekaboo is beyond the developmental level of most babies. And most school-aged children find it boring.
However, there’s a time frame in between those stages where this simple game will bring squeals and belly laughs. A 1-year-old child will often prove understanding by way of laughter, realizing that a person is hiding behind his or her hands. Before the concept of object permanence was understood, hiding one’s face might have produced fear. The laughter of relief was what happened when that fear was relieved. But once the child truly gets the joke, only the laughter of pure joy is heard.
To read more about how humor develops along with developmental growth, take a look at Part 2.